You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

MPAA Urges Appeals Court to Protect Filmmakers’ Right to Embellish

The MPAA has waded into the dispute between screen legend Olivia de Havilland and FX Networks, arguing in an amicus brief filed Thursday that filmmakers must have the right to embellish true events.

De Havilland, 101, sued FX in June, objecting to her portrayal in the Ryan Murphy series “Feud.” De Havilland’s attorneys argued that the series portrayed her as a “petty gossip” and took strong exception to a scene in which De Havilland calls her sister, the actress Joan Fontaine, a “bitch.”

FX countered that its depiction is protected under the First Amendment and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Judge Holly Kendig denied that motion, prompting FX to take its case to the state Court of Appeals.

The MPAA on Thursday joined with Netflix in urging the appellate court to overturn Kendig’s decision and throw out the suit. In the brief, the MPAA’s lawyers argued that they “cannot overstate the serious implications of the trial court’s ruling” for filmmakers who draw on real events for fictionalized works.

“Authors, writers, and directors cannot tell these types of stories if they are required to present every moment with 100 percent literal accuracy, without having any character utter a word that was not actually said, and without every event in the story taking as much time on screen as it did in real life,” they argue. “It would mark a radical departure from decades of case law if the mere use of standard storytelling techniques — indeed the basic tools of the creators’ artistry — were sufficient to support viable false light claims.”

In her suit, De Havilland notes that the “Feud” creators did not seek her out or obtain her consent. But the MPAA argues that requiring the consent of subjects of docudramas would give every public figure absolute veto power over how they were portrayed on screen.

“Motion pictures that criticize, analyze, or reimagine our heroes and leaders will be off limits, and both artistic freedom and public discourse will suffer accordingly,” they contend.

The brief includes a list of this year’s top awards contenders that are based on real events and that, the MPAA argues, would be threatened if De Havilland’s suit is allowed to proceed, including “The Post,” “I, Tonya,” “Dunkirk,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Darkest Hour,” “All the Money in the World,” and “Molly’s Game.”

“Screenwriters need the freedom to create fictional dialogue, imagined scenes, composite characters, and other dramatic elements without fear of unfounded liability,” the MPAA argues.

MPAA Amicus Brief by gmaddaus on Scribd

More Film

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in

    Danny Boyle-Produced ‘Creation Stories’ Adds Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff

    Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff and a host of other new names have signed on for “Creation Stories,” the film being exec-produced by Danny Boyle about Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee. The producers also unveiled the first shots of Ewen Bremner (“Trainspotting”) as the music mogul. Production is underway on the Irvine Welsh-penned project, with “Lock, [...]

  • 'Annabelle Comes Home' Review: This Grab

    Film Review: 'Annabelle Comes Home'

    In a country that should probably think about renaming itself the American Entertainment State, fan culture now produces an obsessive level of pop scholasticism, one that can parse the rules and details of movies and TV shows as if they were fine points of law. In a review of a horror movie, I once called [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content